Pioneer Array to Move to Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight in 2024

Planning and Implementation Updates

July 1, 2021: New Pioneer Array in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight Scoped

A very engaged group of participants spent the week of June 21st thinking about how to optimize the Pioneer Array for its relocation to the southern Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) in 2024. The five-day Phase 2 Innovations Lab, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was led by the OOIFB (Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board), a talented team of “Sparks”, Knowinnovation, Inc., and expertly supported by the OOI Facility. The group identified a range of representative interdisciplinary science questions that can be addressed using the Pioneer Array within the MAB and proposed optimum locations and potential configurations for the array.

Science question topics included air-sea interactions;  the influence of estuarine plumes and the Gulf Stream on cross-shelf and shelf-slope exchanges and their impacts on ocean chemistry and biology; benthic-pelagic coupling; and canyon processes. Participants converged on a general region (see boxes in Figure 1 at right) that would best address the science questions.

“The Innovations Lab was very successful, and we really appreciate the community sharing their innovative ideas with us in this essential first step,” said Kendra Daly, chair of the OOIFB. “The Innovations Lab provides an excellent start to a long process of fleshing out the details to ensure that the array provides data to investigate a broad range of interdisciplinary science questions, while also being robust enough to weather the challenging environmental conditions in the Mid-Atlantic Bight.”

June 21-25, 2021: OOI Community Members Guide Pioneer Relocation

From 21-25 June, 37 members of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) community participated in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Phase 2 Innovations Lab to identify the best location within the recently designated geographic region of the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) between Cape Hatteras and Norfolk Canyon for the Pioneer Array relocation.

During the week, participants worked to identify the observatory opportunities that can be offered by the new Pioneer Array location. They explored how the Pioneer Array sensors and platforms can be optimized to achieve science and education goals at a new site, based on environmental, logistical, and infrastructural considerations. The group also evaluated challenges presented by deployment of Array infrastructure at a new location, and discussed the potential for partnerships and collaborations at a new site.

The MAB region offers opportunities to collect data on a wide variety of cross-disciplinary science topics including cross-shelf exchange, land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems, a highly productive ecosystem with major fisheries, and carbon cycle processes. This geographic region also offers opportunities to improve understanding of hurricane development, tracking and prediction, and offshore wind partnerships. The relocation of the Pioneer Array will take place in 2024.

The Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB), in partnership with KnowInnovations, facilitated the Phase 2 Innovations Lab. “We selected a diverse mix of Lab participants to achieve a broad range of disciplines and professional expertise, career stage (from early to senior), gender, cultural background, and life experience. By involving such a wide range of people in the conversations this week, the innovative quality, outputs, and outcomes of the Lab were enriched,” said Kendra Daly, chair of the OOIFB.  “And, throughout the year, we will continue to work with the community on the exciting optimization process via scientific meetings, seminars, and other means to ensure we receive broad input.”

May 31, 2021: Applications for the Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations Lab

Applications to apply for the Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations were due on May 31st. The Lab was held each day during the week of June 21-25 (about 5-6 hours each day). During this Lab, participants worked to identify the observatory opportunities that can be offered by the Pioneer Array at its new location at the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Application details are provided below.

The application form for the Pioneer Array Innovations Lab 2 was available here. Other details were provided here.

April 30, 2021: NSF Selects Mid-Atlantic Bight for new Pioneer Array Location

The National Science Foundation (NSF) made it official the next location of the OOI Coastal Pioneer Array is the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB) and the move will take place in 2024. The geographic footprint championed during the NSF-sponsored Phase 1 Innovations Lab was the region of the MAB between Cape Hatteras and Norfolk Canyon. This region offers opportunities to collect data on a wide variety of cross-disciplinary science topics including cross-shelf exchange, land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems, a highly productive ecosystem with major fisheries, and carbon cycle processes. This location also offers opportunities to improve our understanding of hurricane development, tracking and prediction, and offshore wind partnerships.

As background, the OOI has been in full operations since 2016. The OOI Pioneer Array was designed to be relocatable, and in 2020 the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB) and the NSF launched a process to select the next OOI Pioneer Array location. A Phase 1 Innovations Lab was held in March 2021 to explore possible locations based on scientific questions of interest. The inputs received helped NSF make its decision to select the MAB.

A Phase 2 Innovations Lab is scheduled for the week of June 21-25.  During this Lab, participants will work to further identify and refine the opportunities afforded by the new Pioneer Array location. Selected participants will be exploring how the Pioneer Array sensors and platforms can be optimized to achieve science and education goals at the new site, based on environmental, logistical, and infrastructural considerations. Partnership and collaboration potentials at the new location will also be discussed.  The OOIFB, in partnership with Knowinnovations, Inc., will again be facilitating the Phase 2 Innovation Lab.

The ocean community was invited to help identify new design considerations that can enable exciting research endeavors at the chosen location.  Scientists, educators, and other stakeholders were encouraged to apply for the Phase 2 Innovations Lab. An open-to-all Microlab was held May 12, 2021 for those interested in participating.

March 15-19 2021: Phase 1 Innovations Lab Considers Pioneer Array Location

In 2021, the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board (OOIFB) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) launched a process to consider whether to move the Pioneer Array from its current location, on the New England shelf and slope south of Martha’s Vineyard, to a new site. Selection of the next OOI Pioneer Array location, or decision to maintain the Array at its current location, was to be driven by community input on the important science questions that can be addressed by the Pioneer Array.

The OOI community was invited to weigh in on this important decision during a two-phase sequential lab approach that brought together scientists, educators, and other stakeholders together virtually to evaluate 1) future location options for the Pioneer Array and 2) new design considerations that can enable exciting research endeavors at the chosen location.

The Phase 1 Innovations Lab was held on March 15-19to explore possible locations for the Pioneer Array based on multiple factors, driven by scientific questions that require an ocean observatory to advance knowledge. At the Lab, interdisciplinary teams worked together to ideate and develop a roadmap of possible locations including exploring new scientific, educational, and partnership opportunities.  Participation was open to the all, and 32 applicants were selected to participate in this important decision.

The Lab’s findings were considered by an NSF review panel, which will report to NSF in early fall on the new Pioneer Array location and how it can be optimized for science and education.  The findings of both Innovations Lab will be shared with the OOI community.

January 13, 2021: Questions about Potential Pioneer Array Move Answered

On Wednesday 13 January, 2021, the National Science Foundation and the Ocean Observatories Initiative Facilities Board held a microlab to answers questions about the process for deciding if, and if so, where, the Pioneer Array might be relocated.  The microlab was designed to provide potential applicants with information about the selection process as well as technical details about the Pioneer Array to be considered for potential new locations.

All feasible location options are to be considered – new geographic areas, as well as maintaining the Pioneer Array in its current location – during a two-phased Innovation Labs, which all were invited to apply to participate in. Selection of a new OOI Pioneer Array location is to be driven by community input on the important science questions that can be addressed with observations from a new Array location.

The answers to the questions posed during the microlab can be found here.